California law requires employers to provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodations and to protect them from discrimination. The Fair Employment and Housing Act defines a disability as any condition that limits major life activities. The law covers individuals with cognitive or physical impairments and employees with serious illnesses such as AIDS.
Under the FEHA, you may ask your supervisor to make a reasonable modification in your work environment to help you perform your job. As described by DFEH.CA.gov, you may ask to relocate your workstation or to use electrical or mechanical aids. Examples include wheelchair access, overhead lighting or text-to-speech software.
Accommodating employees with disabilities
After asking for an accommodation, your employer may request a doctor’s note. The request may only cover how your disability relates to your need for an accommodation. Employers may ask about the impairment’s severity or how it affects your job performance, as explained by the Society for Human Resource Management.
After employers establish a worker has a qualifying disability, an obligation exists to comply with the law. Management then initiates the “interactive process” under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidelines. You and your employer may proceed in discussing how your requested accommodations could help you perform your job.
Protecting disabled employees from discrimination
The FEHA prohibits denying reasonable accommodations or retaliating against employees who ask for them. Both state and federal labor laws prohibit disabled employees from experiencing retaliation or discrimination after requesting changes. According to the EEOC, discrimination may include offensive jokes, a reduced work schedule or a demotion.
A legal action against an employer that violates labor laws may help an employee recover. A jury may award employees damages such as back pay or benefits.